While watching a morning news broadcast my youngest son entered the room sleepily and quickly snuggled against me. Thinking he was dozing, I was surprised when he asked after a bit, “Mom why is all of this bad stuff happening now?” The thing is, I have really been waiting for this kind of question for a while, even so I was unprepared.
I thought back to the days when his chubby toddler fingers grasped mine knowing already that I would protect him. That is a mothers job after all; to protect her children from any and all dangers. As they grew, I was such a neurotic parent that I would see dangers where there weren’t any. I do so even now. But this… THIS is different…. how do I protect them from the world?
The fact is every day I worry about the world I am leaving for my children. I didn’t prepare them for this hatred reported daily, the hate inspired violence, nor the hate inspired protests, political rants and violent videos spread across the vastness that is social media. I log on to Facebook and it’s all over the newsfeed. I was recently informed by my son that “Facebook is for old people, kids don’t even use it”. I laughed then, I gave a sigh of relief today in the moment for that tidbit of information.
I look to my son as he studies the TV broadcast, he may have grown into a teenager, but the deep concern in his shiny green eyes belie the fact that in so many ways he is still a baby. I didn’t prepare my children for this. Especially him.
I taught him love, and that no person is better than another, especially because of the color of their skin. He grasped this concept earlier than his older siblings. He would bring his best Hotwheel® cars to play with friends, driving over the vast terrain of rocks adjacent to the field his older brothers would play their ball games on. I specifically remember him at the tender age of four, running over to me and asking “can I play with my new friend over there?”, I asked him in return “who honey?”, and immediately one of the other kids said “that black kid” as my son said “the kid in the red shirt”. My child saw no difference except in shirt color. And he still sees the same.
I turned off the television and turned to him, trying to explain what I believed. Which in a nutshell was that many of the bad events that have happened recently, have been happening for a long time. I further explained that in life today bad news can travel in mere minutes with just a cell phone. The tragic circumstance of an officer related shooting of an innocent person, can inflame 5000 people in mere minutes, and double that seconds later etc.. Further explaining without overwhelming him, that I truly believed if just one of those angry people already carried hate in his heart, or suffered from a dangerous mental illness, then that can set in motion a much more devastating event. (referring to the Dallas shooting death of a woman shielding her children, and the deaths and injuring of Dallas Police Officers just doing their job, since that was what the news broadcast had been about.)
I really feel like I fumbled this. I don’t even understand some people anymore. I truly still have to believe there are many more good people than bad.
But he wasn’t finished with me and asked, “How do we change the world?’. My heart broke with this question, because I have absolutely no idea. I answered with obvious advice “be kind, always do right by other people, and never take more than you give to this world or to the people you meet”. He shook his head like he understood and got up to walk away. Another fumble…
I called him back, and told I was so proud of him, and probably the best answer to his question was really to “never stop caring”, explaining that if he would just do that, when an opportunity to make a difference was upon him, he’d act on it. He smiled and said, “I kinda already do that Mom. Some of my friends do too”. And with that he walked away, leaving me with a little more hope for the world than before we had spoken.
I really think he and my other children have taught me more lessons than I have taught them. I think the best thing we can all do is teach our children to love and to give of themselves. This future world is looking scary, but these children are also our future world.